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This office serves clients in real estate transactions of all types. I also assist clients with estate planning for everyone, including the GLBT community, and represent Illinois condominium associations as needed. I help real estate investors who are renting their properties deal with difficult renter issues, and I advocate for renters dealing with difficult landlords.

 
I work with clients in Chicago and all over the Chicagoland area, including Wilmette, Skokie, Morton Grove, Plainfield, Wheaton, Glencoe, Lake Forest, Naperville, Oak Park, Winnetka, Des Plaines, Orland Park, Berwyn, Carol Stream, Arlington Heights, Crystal Lake, Barrington, Palatine, Park Ridge, Gurnee, South Holland, Park Forest and more.

My goal is to give each and every client personal, friendly and competent service at a reasonable price. I also strive to use technology in the best way possible to keep my clients informed.
 
My legal background includes working for a major Chicago developer and working for a boutique firm in their real estate division. I am also a landlord of a three flat building in Rogers Park and I am managing broker of a small real estate brokerage.
 

I work with all different types of clients, including developers, first-time buyers, buyers of second (or third!) homes, all sellers and the LGBTQ community.

My real estate blog is below. Please make sure to check back on a regular basis to check out what's new. I update my blog about once a week and welcome any questions that you may have.
 
Ask me too about help with personal injury, divorce, and any other legal issues! 

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Check out my interview, Expert Advice on Buying a Foreclosed Home on Illinois Homes, one of the top sites for Illinois homes for sale, including Wheaton, IL real estate. Illinois Homes also services Michigan homes for sale and Pennsylvania homes for sale.

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Chicago Home Prices Down 2 Percent in December

From yesterday's Chicago Sun-Times:

Home prices fell in December for a fourth straight month nationwide, with Chicago-area single-family home prices down 2 percent from November, as modest sales gains in the depressed housing market have yet to lift prices.

Chicago, along with Atlanta with a 1.8 percent drop and Detroit, which plunged 3.8 percent, were among the cities with the steepest declines, the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home-price index revealed Tuesday.

Miami and Phoenix were the only cities to show an increase.

The declines partly reflect the typical slowdown that comes in the fall and winter.

Year over year, Chicago-area housing prices dropped 6.5 percent in 2011 from 2010, with the price index down 35 percent from a September 2006 high. The only cities with worse annual results were Atlanta, down 12.8 percent, and Las Vegas, down 8.8 percent.

Nationwide, prices have fallen 34 percent since the housing bust, back to 2002 levels. A gauge of quarterly national prices, which covers 70 percent of U.S. homes, fell to its lowest point on records dating back to 1987 after being adjusted for inflation.

“The pick-up in the economy has simply not been strong enough to keep home prices stabilized,” said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the S&P’s index committee. “If anything, it looks like we might have reentered a period of decline as we begin 2012.”

The Case-Shiller monthly index covers half of all U.S. homes. It measures prices compared with those in January 2000 and creates a three-month moving average. The December data is the latest available.

Home values remain depressed despite some hopeful signs at the end of last year.

Builders are growing more optimistic after seeing more people express interest in buying this year. Sales of previously occupied homes are at their highest level since May 2010. More first-time buyers are making purchases. And the supply of homes fell last month to its lowest point in nearly seven years, which could push home prices higher.

Homes are the most affordable they’ve been in decades. And mortgage rates have never been cheaper.

Much of the optimism has come because hiring has picked up. More jobs are critical to a housing rebound.

There’s hope among some economists that an increase in sales could stop prices from falling further by the late winter or early spring. A rise in prices could lead to a positive cycle of better sales, too.

“Stability in home prices will likely persuade more potential buyers that it is now worth getting into the market,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.

Conditions are improving for those in position to buy a home. Still, many people can’t afford to buy or are unable to qualify for mortgage. Some people in position to buy are holding off, worried that prices could fall even further.

The biggest reason why prices are still falling is foreclosures, which are still high across the country. Foreclosures and short sales — when a lender accepts less for a home than what is owed on a mortgage — are selling at an average discount of 20 percent.

11:27 am cst 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Smoking to be Banned Within Condos?

From Chicago Agent Magazine:

When the Smoke Free Illinois Act took effect Jan. 1, 2008, public places and places of employment throughout the state were required to be smoke-free inside and within 15 feet of entrances, exits, windows that open and ventilation intakes.

The act, though, excluded private residences, and has led to a murky gray area involving regulations on where homeowners can smoke and when. That ambiguity is front and center in a new proposed law that would allow condominium associations throughout Illinois to ban smoking in their buildings.

Proposed by State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, the law would codify the smoking band in Illinois’ Condominium Property Act. Previously, such a power was only available to condo associations through bylaws.

In a statement addressing her proposition, Feigenholtz said the ban would address the public health concerns involving smoking.

“Secondhand smoke can cause health problems ranging from a sore throat to asthma symptoms to lung cancer,” said Feigenholtz. “If a condo resident’s smoking can imperil a neighbor’s health, then condominium associations should be able to impose building smoking restrictions.”

This is not the first time that condo associations have grappled with smoking. As the Chicago Tribune reported back in 2010, the 1418 N. Lake Shore Drive condominium association amended its own declaration to “prohibit smoking in interior common elements, interior limited common elements and inside the units.” Smoking was only permitted in units with single rooms that featured association-approved, self-contained air-treatment systems.

Even before that, The Chicago Journal reported on the AMLI 900 high-rise in the South Loop, which became Chicago’s first smoke-free apartment building in the spring of 2009 when it prohibited smoking throughout its 24-story building.

The building, the Journal reported, was on firm legal ground when it made the prohibition.

“Legal experts say condo boards and associations have the legal right to make their condominium property smoke free, just as they are free to prohibit pets,” Don DeBat wrote for the Journal. “There is no state or federal constitutional right for people to smoke.”

And even non-profits have been getting in on the action, offering grants worth ten of thousands of dollars for buildings to restrit smoking.

The “Piloting and Promoting Smoke-free Homes Initiative,” as it was called, was announced last summer by the Chicago Tobacco Prevention Project. It offered three associations in Chicago a total of $50,000 to cover the various costs of converting a building into a smoke-free environment, for things such as updating leases, educating residents and other legal documents.

2:32 pm cst 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Real Estate Still a Solid Investment in 2012

From GlobeSt.Com -

CHICAGO-Though the two major fundamentals, jobs and housing, are still shaky, there’s so much capital held back today that the next five years should see massive investment in the stability of commercial real estate, according to a joint report. The groups Real Estate Research Corp., Deloitte and National Association of Realtors put together the Expectations & Market Realities in Real Estate 2012 report.

Property has shown better returns in the long run than other investment vehicles such as stocks, and the product markets of office, industrial, retail and hospitality should inch upward this year in occupancy and lending, according to the report. Kenneth Riggs Jr., chairman and president of RERC, tells GlobeSt.com that uncertainty in the US political arena and the turmoil overseas in Europe and the Middle East should allow CRE to shine as a more stable investment.

“I think in the next couple of years we’re going to see the greatest capital infusion we’ve ever seen in a generation,” Riggs says. “We believe that commercial real estate is the new foundation to investment portfolios as we go back to the basics of investing.” He says there’s a number of CRE companies such as Clarion and Jones Lang LaSalle that are launching private REITs to literally capitalize on the massive amount of money sitting on the sidelines.

Much like the lack of development in the United States has led to absorption increasing, even while jobs are still way down, the lack of spending by companies and consumers is setting up this expectation of growth in the next few years. In 2010, for example, the total US economy as at $14.5 trillion, about equal to China, Japan and Germany combined – and that’s following the recession.

While fundamentals are keeping landlords from increasing rents in all property types except apartments, the office, retail and industrial markets are expected to shrink, even as the economy begins to expand. Also, GDP is about the same as it was in December 2007, even though there’s millions less jobs now.

Riggs says those figures, among other expectations, are the reason to believe that growth is on its way. “I think we’re going to come out of this a lot stronger than we were before,” he says.

 

12:44 pm cst 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Pockets of Hope in Some Chicago Markets

From today's Chicago Tribune:

The market has not been kind to the home seller.

The bad news continued last week when the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index reported that Chicago-area homes prices fell in November for the third month in a row, to a level not seen since May 2001.


Still, there are pockets, small pockets, where at least in the fourth quarter of 2011 the housing market looked better than it did a year ago. The telltale signs: an increase in median sales prices, an increase in the number of closed sales and a decrease in the number of days on market.


There is no guarantee that the positive signs will continue in the more than a dozen ZIP codes that showed improvement in all three areas, and experts want to see another three months of statistics before they label an area as recovering. A rash of distressed properties also will send the market downward. But given five years of bad headlines about the housing market, even the smallest inkling of positive news may be welcome for homeowners and industry watchers.


"Real estate has become a spectator sport because of the Internet," said Russ Bergeron, CEO of Midwest Real Estate Data LLC, the local multiple listing service provider. People "want to know what's going on in their neighborhood. The (greater) number of units means stuff is at least moving. If you can string together six to nine months (of good numbers), then you've really got something to be excited about."


Many communities showed improvements in the average number of days it took to sell properties, according to data provided to the Tribune by Midwest Real Estate Data. And many also showed a greater number of closed sales than last year's fourth quarter.


Far fewer showed higher median selling prices, but pricing is expected to remain under pressure until distressed inventory is cleared from the market.


"There's no magic formula on anything like this to say we've accomplished a turnaround," said Zillow senior economist Svenja Gudel. "If you have a fairly tight (housing) stock, that will help put a floor under prices, because people are snapping up houses."


Among those areas are the communities of McHenry, Johnsburg and Lakemoor. When gasoline prices topped $4 a gallon, Toni Wardanian, a real estate agent at Stedman's Real Estate, saw homebuyer interest wane because no one wanted an expensive commute.


With both gas prices and mortgage rates far more attractive, she is again seeing interest in starter homes as well as getting calls from existing homeowners who want to take advantage of the overall low prices and trade up to larger homes.


"We have houses listed for $50,000, and that's just crazy," she said. "They need work, but some are diamonds in the rough."


Indeed, of the 49 homes sold in the 60051 ZIP code during the fourth quarter, 15, or 30 percent, sold for between $50,000 and $99,999, according to Midwest Real Estate Data.


In many cases, real estate agents say homeowners are finally coming to grips with the reality that if they want to sell their home in the current market and in a timely fashion, they have to price it competitively.


After 14 years of living in Naperville, homeowner Kathy Schutz wants to move to Chicago with her 11-year-old son by late summer. Having recently put her home on the market, she's encouraged by what she hears but remains a little apprehensive. She listed the home in 2009 at the same price, $419,000, but took it off after a few months. She's kept the same price, reasoning that it's similar to the recent comparable home sales she's seen.


"You mentally get a number in your head, and I don't know how much I'm going to have to adjust it," said Schutz, an equity analyst. "I think I'm in the ballpark, but we'll have to wait and see. I deal with economic data all day. I don't feel as bullish as these Realtors do, but you do hear people saying, 'Boy, there are some great deals out there.'"


The mild winter certainly has helped showings and buyer interest, said Erene Panos of Re/Max Action. Panos still has conversations weekly with sellers about pricing, but list prices aren't being dropped as quickly as they were a year ago.


"We aren't getting as saturated by the foreclosures as before, and that's definitely helping the resale market," Panos said. "And if you have a home that has been very well taken care of, it's not going to be there that long."


Michael and Ilana Sherman made an offer on a Highland Park home the day after it came on the market, before Michael had even seen it. The couple sold their Lincoln Square condo at a loss in 2010 and began renting in Wilmette while they began watching the residential markets along the North Shore, waiting for the right opportunity. After walking away from one offer and losing out to a higher bid on another, the couple went under contract on a four-bedroom split-level a few hours after Ilana toured it, at the list price of $325,000.


"We kind of expected going into it that we would be able to take our time," Michael Sherman said. "But the reality is, the houses that are priced accordingly to their real value and that are in structurally good shape go very fast. When you see it, and we'd been looking for a while, if you want to own your own home, then you have to react fast."

The market has not been kind to the home seller.

The bad news continued last week when the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index reported that Chicago-area homes prices fell in November for the third month in a row, to a level not seen since May 2001.

Still, there are pockets, small pockets, where at least in the fourth quarter of 2011 the housing market looked better than it did a year ago. The telltale signs: an increase in median sales prices, an increase in the number of closed sales and a decrease in the number of days on market.

There is no guarantee that the positive signs will continue in the more than a dozen ZIP codes that showed improvement in all three areas, and experts want to see another three months of statistics before they label an area as recovering. A rash of distressed properties also will send the market downward. But given five years of bad headlines about the housing market, even the smallest inkling of positive news may be welcome for homeowners and industry watchers.

"Real estate has become a spectator sport because of the Internet," said Russ Bergeron, CEO of Midwest Real Estate Data LLC, the local multiple listing service provider. People "want to know what's going on in their neighborhood. The (greater) number of units means stuff is at least moving. If you can string together six to nine months (of good numbers), then you've really got something to be excited about."

Many communities showed improvements in the average number of days it took to sell properties, according to data provided to the Tribune by Midwest Real Estate Data. And many also showed a greater number of closed sales than last year's fourth quarter.

Far fewer showed higher median selling prices, but pricing is expected to remain under pressure until distressed inventory is cleared from the market.

"There's no magic formula on anything like this to say we've accomplished a turnaround," said Zillow senior economist Svenja Gudel. "If you have a fairly tight (housing) stock, that will help put a floor under prices, because people are snapping up houses."

Among those areas are the communities of McHenry, Johnsburg and Lakemoor. When gasoline prices topped $4 a gallon, Toni Wardanian, a real estate agent at Stedman's Real Estate, saw homebuyer interest wane because no one wanted an expensive commute.

With both gas prices and mortgage rates far more attractive, she is again seeing interest in starter homes as well as getting calls from existing homeowners who want to take advantage of the overall low prices and trade up to larger homes.

"We have houses listed for $50,000, and that's just crazy," she said. "They need work, but some are diamonds in the rough."

Indeed, of the 49 homes sold in the 60051 ZIP code during the fourth quarter, 15, or 30 percent, sold for between $50,000 and $99,999, according to Midwest Real Estate Data.

In many cases, real estate agents say homeowners are finally coming to grips with the reality that if they want to sell their home in the current market and in a timely fashion, they have to price it competitively.

After 14 years of living in Naperville, homeowner Kathy Schutz wants to move to Chicago with her 11-year-old son by late summer. Having recently put her home on the market, she's encouraged by what she hears but remains a little apprehensive. She listed the home in 2009 at the same price, $419,000, but took it off after a few months. She's kept the same price, reasoning that it's similar to the recent comparable home sales she's seen.

"You mentally get a number in your head, and I don't know how much I'm going to have to adjust it," said Schutz, an equity analyst. "I think I'm in the ballpark, but we'll have to wait and see. I deal with economic data all day. I don't feel as bullish as these Realtors do, but you do hear people saying, 'Boy, there are some great deals out there.'"

The mild winter certainly has helped showings and buyer interest, said Erene Panos of Re/Max Action. Panos still has conversations weekly with sellers about pricing, but list prices aren't being dropped as quickly as they were a year ago.

"We aren't getting as saturated by the foreclosures as before, and that's definitely helping the resale market," Panos said. "And if you have a home that has been very well taken care of, it's not going to be there that long."

Michael and Ilana Sherman made an offer on a Highland Park home the day after it came on the market, before Michael had even seen it. The couple sold their Lincoln Square condo at a loss in 2010 and began renting in Wilmette while they began watching the residential markets along the North Shore, waiting for the right opportunity. After walking away from one offer and losing out to a higher bid on another, the couple went under contract on a four-bedroom split-level a few hours after Ilana toured it, at the list price of $325,000.

"We kind of expected going into it that we would be able to take our time," Michael Sherman said. "But the reality is, the houses that are priced accordingly to their real value and that are in structurally good shape go very fast. When you see it, and we'd been looking for a while, if you want to own your own home, then you have to react fast."
 

1:23 pm cst 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Congrats to New First Time Homebuyers!
Congrats to Michael N. and Melissa M. who closed yesterday on their first new home! It was a pleasure working with you and all the best!
11:29 am cst 

Old Mortgages Rise from the Dead to Haunt Homeowners

In July 2009, Roy and Sheila Bowers refinanced the mortgage on their suburban ranch home in Topeka, Kan. The couple wanted to take advantage of the low interest rates that were all the rage at the time.

Roy, a truck driver, and Sheila, a former hotel housekeeping supervisor, knew their new loan from Wells Fargo would enable them to save $198.86 a month, a nice chunk to help with gas and groceries.

But what the Bowers never imagined was that their old loan, the one Wells Fargo told them was paid off, would resurrect itself, trashing their credit report, scotching their son's student loans and throwing the whole family into foreclosure. All, they say, even though they didn't miss a single mortgage payment.

The Bowers are not alone.

More and more, homeowners say that mortgages they thought were dead and buried are springing back to life, sometimes haunting them all the way into foreclosure.

"It's the most egregious manifestation of an industry that's seriously broken," said Ira Rheingold, a lawyer who is the executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

Diane Thompson, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center, said she has defended hundreds of foreclosure cases, and in nearly all of them the homeowner was not in default.

"The record keeping on the part of the mortgage servicers is not to be trusted," Thompson said.

The problems grew from a lot of sloppy record keeping that began during the housing boom, when Wall Street built a quick-and-dirty back-office operation to process mortgages quickly so lenders could sell as many loans as possible. As the loans were later sold to investors and then resold around the world, the back-office system sidestepped crucial legal procedures.

Now it's becoming clear just how dysfunctional and, according to several state attorneys general, how fraudulent the whole system was.

Depositions from "affidavit slaves" depict a surreal, assembly-line world in which the banks and their partner firms hired hair stylists, young employees from fast-food restaurants and Wal-Mart floor workers, paying them $10 an hour, to pose as bank vice presidents, assistant secretaries and corporate attorneys.

These "robosigners" became a national sensation in the fall of 2010 when it was revealed that they faked titles, forged documents and backdated affidavits so they could make up for the bypassed procedures and foreclose on properties. They passed around notary stamps as if they were salt. They did all of this, they testified, without verifying a single word in any of the documents, as is required by law.

And it was all done, they say, to foreclose on as many homeowners as fast as possible.

No one collects statistics on wrongful foreclosures or how many people are facing phantom mortgage debts. But as the industry enters its fifth year of unwinding its mortgage morass, consumer groups, homeowner attorneys and foreclosure-fraud investigators say they are seeing more cases in which people who don't owe the banks a dime are getting ensnared in the same hell as those who have missed payments.

They add that such problems are likely to intensify. Former industry employees have testified that they knowingly pushed through foreclosures on the wrong people.

The attorney for the Bowers, the couple from Topeka, said their credit woes stem from an "Erroneous Release of Mortgage" document stating that the Bowers' first mortgage "has not been fully paid, nor satisfied, nor discharged, but, instead, continues to exist." The document was signed by a robosigner after the first mortgage had, in fact, been paid off by the new mortgage they obtained in their refinancing, they say.

It all casts a pall over a housing market in worse condition than it was during the Great Depression. By some estimates, 12.5 percent of U.S. homes with mortgages are either in foreclosure or the loans are at least 30 days past due, representing about $1 trillion in value.

"This is an epic problem that the economy hasn't even begun to digest," said Florida foreclosure analyst Lisa Epstein.

In some cases, mortgages that were supposed to die off in a refinancing are popping back up, while in others the loans were paid in full. Homeowners who pay off their houses through bankruptcy programs are also falling prey. So are homeowners who never even had a mortgage to begin with.

Homeowners say the banks' repo men sometimes show up at work. Banks also hector them with threatening letters and phone calls.

11:24 am cst 


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